Community Building Through Art: Tracy Beyl
“The most rewarding part of my job is when we’re installing and talking to the people — random people — who come by. I was only at 6th Ward Park just to tell them how to position things, and in that brief time, several people came by and stopped and thanked the city for installing the sculptures.” Tracy Beyl’s experience while overseeing the installation of artist Tedd Pettibon’s work recently is not an unusual one for her in her position as Lancaster’s public art director. She sees community building as the most important role of public art, and says that not only are most of her interactions with the public around the work that has been installed across the city overwhelmingly positive, but that they have gotten more so over the course of the nearly three years she’s been in the position.
In addition to the installation at 6th Ward Park, she has also recently overseen the “ReTHINK” Litter Letter project, and has worked with Amtrak to install salvaged Quilt and Textile Museum display cases at Amtrak’s Lancaster train station, which will house a rotation of exhibits by five local organizations.
She strives for diversity in the types of art chosen for placement around the city, “Not everybody is going to like what you put in, because people don’t agree on anything. But it doesn’t mean don’t put it in because one person doesn’t like it. And that’s why I think it’s good to have a mix, different types of work, abstract, representational, because then there’s something for everyone,” but, of course Tracy doesn’t work on the projects in a vacuum. She is advised by a public art board and committees for each project, with plenty of opportunity for public input and public comment built into the process. Anyone may attend board meetings, which are held on the first Wednesday of the month, from 4 − 5:30, and submit ideas for future projects, according to the procedure outlined in the public art guidelines.
Community building happens throughout the entire process of a project, which often involves bringing groups or individuals together who may have not had reason or opportunity to work together before, as well as bringing artists to meet and speak to students and work on related art projects. “That’s what public art does, it brings people together,” says Tracy, as she discusses the process for Litter Letter and other upcoming projects, including an interactive one designed to bring awareness to pedestrians crossing busy city intersections. She also consults with private entities about putting art on their properties, and does her best to encourage this type of development, in an effort to continue to provide a beautiful environment for Lancaster’s residents and visitors.